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Racing Through the Islands

February 23, 2018

We’re on a roll. Having had a great visit with our friend Sue travelling from Martinique to Dominica and on to Guadeloupe we thought it best to get our act together in order to meet our deadline of being in the Bahamas by March 10th. With limited time we were going to have to race through areas of the Caribbean that many rave about; names such as St. Barts, St Marteen, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and many more. We just don’t have time to meander so we pushed off from Riviere Sens in Guadeloupe hoping to make a stop in Montserrat. Sailing was vigorous with winds in the high teens with seas on the beam. Prominent on Montserrat is an active volcano with clouds of steam rising from the Soufriere Hills. These clouds of gaseous steam can be seen from Guadeloupe and Antigua.

Approaching Montserrat the volcanic activity kept our minds off Sage’s rock and roll environment and the salt water spray cascading over the decks. Closer and closer we came and the more in awe we were as we watched from Sage’s deck. We kept to the outside of the 2 mile marine exclusion zone but that still gave us great views of the volcanic activity.

The church is almost completely buried


Dramatic volcano on Montserrat

The lee side of Montserrat provided a smooth water slide up the lower half of the west coast with spectacular vistas of the extent to which the volcano changed the quiet life of Plymouth. Half buried churches, boulders the size of houses, mountains of debris flows like rivers down the slopes amongst hundreds of abandoned homes. Wanting to spend the night on the west coast we proceeded northwards but the wind was whipping up the seas on the northwest coast so we abandoned the thoughts of more volcano exploration and set our sites for another 30 miles to the west before getting to an open anchorage on Nives.

From Nives we quickly moved on to St. Barts for a hit of the high life. An old Dutch settlement that fell into French hands and now boasts stores like Hermes, Ralph Lauren and numerous bars and restaurants to while away your time while onshore from your luxury yacht. Have never seen so many super yachts anchored in one place at one time. We counted 8 luxury motor yachts in the anchorage one night. For us the anchorage was one of the worst. We were thrown from one bulkhead to another in one of the worst anchorages in the Caribbean, next to Les Saintes in Guadeloupe. The glitterati had their stabalizers out onboard their 80 foot+ yachts and were drinking champagne on the aft deck.


Lined up waiting for the caviar and fried chicken!

Loading up on Hermes travel bags and Gucci deck shoes we hurriedly left the anchorage for the British Virgin Islands. And what a ride. 25knot winds on a broad reach which should be great. However, the sea state left us relieved to arrive in Cooper Island at 0600hrs. We stopped, had breakfast, a sleep and then set sail for Road Town for clearance. One look at the anchorage for customs and immigration clearance sent us scurrying to Soper’s Hole at the west end of Tortola.

Sopers is now where we sit with 30 knots of wind pushing us around the anchorage which is littered with mooring buoys set in place by MoreSeacure ($30/night), the scourge of the BVIs. They have covered the bay, and other bays in the BVIs, with mooring buoys making it difficult to anchor without getting tangled up in one of their buoys. My philosophy is if we get tangled up in one of their buoys I have no qualms about cutting their buoy away. I am not paying $30/night to anchor Sage in a bay that only has, in this season, 3 boats in the bay at night and no services ie water, fuel etc. This is my pet peeve as you can tell but it is something that is increasingly evident throughout the Caribbean.

We rented a car yesterday and toured the island. Everywhere evidence of the devastation of last season’s 2 hurricanes could be seen; hurricane Irma and hurricane Maria. There is destruction everywhere. In Soper’s Hole there were three marinas and numerous businesses. There are now no fully functioning marinas and only 2 businesses up and running; D’Ats Coffee and Pusser Landing. Everything else is closed due to extensive damages. What was a thriving destination with numerous services is now catering only to boats coming in to clear customs and immigration. Last night there were only 3 boats that stayed overnight with everyone else moving on. Customs/immigration doesn’t even have a building – their offices are a tent with free air conditioning!

As for the rest of Tortola, everywhere shows the strain of recovery. Damaged roads, businesses closed, yachts scattered in the mangroves, abandoned homes, roofs torn off, hurricane anchorages (?) littered with the skeletons of yachts on their sides or upside down (catamarans). For everyone its catastrophic and will take years to recover and clean up.

For us the worst to see is people who owned boats here and lost them in the hurricane who have done nothing, or the insurance company has done nothing, to take responsibility for cleaning up the remains. We as sailors must take responsibility for cleaning up what was ours instead of leaving it to the locals to deal with and to pay for the costs.

Very sad for sailors to see. Everywhere in the US and British Virgin Islands there were boats in trees, piled in middle of lagoons, in the mangroves and on the edge of the roads. Clean up is slow.

From here it’s on to Puerto Rico where expect to see more impacts from last seasons hurricanes.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 23, 2018 17:31

    Tony, Full and by! Fred

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